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Stepping Out in Visible Ways: MLK Day of Service

Sunday, January 20, 2019

What does the King holiday mean to you? How much do we know about him? Do we take time to reflect on the sacrifice and impact of his life? The need to carry his legacy forward? The threats to progress with that legacy in today’s divided America and a world that can seem indifferent to its most vulnerable citizens?

A couple of years ago one of Tee’s and my favorite tv shows, the sitcom comedy Blackish, explored this question humorously but poignantly through the trope of the ‘Martin Luther King Ski Holiday,’ as some have come to refer to the three-day weekend. With no offense intended to anyone who goes skiing on this long weekend (honestly, I’d be as happy as the next person to go skiing this weekend), I am very proud that tomorrow Burgundy for the 10th year will be sponsoring a King holiday day of service.

Ten years ago, President Obama invited Americans to consider the possibilities of a Monday holiday ‘Day On’ rather than day off, and Burgundy not only accepted the challenge but was a local leader. The event was organized by longtime Burgundy Community Service Coordinator Charlene Pritzker, parent volunteer leaders, and Burgundy admin and staff. We strived to make the day’s service projects relevant to King’s legacy and accessible to all Burgundy students and their families, as well as to diverse Alexandrians. These included middle school students from one of Alexandria’s public middle schools, who came to Burgundy by bus to join us. It was a remarkable day in every respect.

That first Burgundy ‘Day On’ was a massive undertaking, with the mayor of Alexandria making an appearance, as well as TV news reporters. We have gradually right-sized and focused the day of service to provide rewarding and useful service experiences primarily for middle schoolers on the actual holiday and opportunities for younger students within the school day or by contributing food or toiletries to drives during the week before the holiday.

This year, for the first time, Burgundy 4th and 5th graders and their families have been invited to participate in Burgundy’s King holiday service day on Monday, from 9:00 AM (carry-away breakfast and gathering) to about 12:30 PM. Our Day of Service speaks to Burgundy’s greater significance in a complicated world! As Dr. King was a courageous, committed leader for all poor and oppressed Americans who were not able to realize their American dreams, we too can step out in visible ways, and this is one! Congratulations and thank you to Charlene (who is leading some sort of service nearly every weekend!) and all of our participating families. May Dr. King’s legacy live in our deeds and courage to speak up for truth and justice for all!

P.S. I found Taylor Branch’s exhaustive three-part biography of Dr. King and ‘the King years’ to be incredibly edifying and rewarding. Here’s a selection of texts that were recommended on the 50th anniversary of King’s death last spring.